My last few personal updates have been on the sadish side—perhaps more dramatically so than I had intended, as evidenced by the concerned messages I received from readers who began checking in to see if I was doing okay. Thankfully, my moods have taken a drastic turn for the better in the past few weeks, and September was one of my best months in recent memory.
Circumstances have definitely had a lot to do with that: this month we settled into our fall routine, which involves a lot more activity but also more structure, more friend time, and a return to weekly Bible study—all things I really missed over the summer. This month we also spent a fantastic week with my family in California and participated in my sister-in-law’s wedding, both of which went even better than I could have dreamed. Here’s a look at a few of the month’s highlights!
// READING LATELY //
I haven’t had the best luck with fiction lately. In the past few weeks I read four recently-published novels (The Fall of Lisa Bellow, The Windfall, The Identicals, and Imagine Me Gone) that I was really excited to jump into, but not one of them lived up to my expectations. My current novel is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which I’m reading as my book published during the 1980s for my 2017 Reading Challenge. So far it’s not a favorite, but I’m not far enough into the book to make a firm judgment call.
Thankfully I’ve had a bit more success with my nonfiction picks. The 8 Minute Organizer and 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do were both fairly straightforward, but good refreshers on their respective subjects, and Boundaries was hugely insightful and relevant. I had very mixed feelings on Of Mess and Moxie, but given the amount of attention it’s receiving I’m very glad that I read it. I followed that up with Sasha Martin’s stunning but heart-wrenching memoir, which blew me away. Luke and I are currently working through What Great Parents Do and I’m loving it for both the excellent advice and the easily digestible format. Full reviews of all my recent reads are coming up in a couple of weeks.
// WATCHING LATELY //
We went another month without watching a single show or movie (other than snippets of some [very strange, not-even-animal-related] Animal Planet shows that we watched with Charleston in the hotel on our road trip). One noteworthy thing I did watch this month was an interview with pastor Paul David Tripp about finding a balance between discipline and grace in our parenting. This is definitely an area where I could use some instruction and encouragement, and I appreciated Tripp’s perspective. I learned about Tripp through his interview on the God Centered Mom podcast; I soaked up every word and immediately added his book to my TBR.
// FUNNY CHARLESTON MOMENTS //
Charleston continues to say and do the funniest things. I’m sure a lot of his cute phrases and expressions are a lot less adorable to people who aren’t his mom, but I sure do enjoy witnessing (and then documenting) these sweet and hilarious moments. A few funny things he’s said this month:
>> “Where does the sun go when we sleep?”
>> While looking at a wedding picture of me and Luke: “Mama, what’s Daddy doing to you?” Me: “He’s giving me a kiss.” Charleston: “Why is he giving you a kiss? Where is he going?” (Because the only times he sees us kiss is when we are saying goodbye.)
>> Also while looking at a wedding picture: “Why am I not in the picture?” Me: “Because it was before you were a part of our family.” Charleston: “Can I become part of your family now?”
>> “Parking lots are SO COOL! I LOVE parking lots because cars can go in them!”
>> Spontaneously, and quite frequently, he will look up at me and say, “Mama, you’re so cute!” or “You’re my favorite!”
>> During a rather unpleasant diaper change, I opened up the diaper drawer to discover it was empty. Charleston’s solution: “Maybe you should call Luke for some help.”
>> He learned that the cheese on top of pizza is called mozzarella, and now when we tell him to smile for a picture he says “mozzarella!” instead of “cheese.” The photographers at the wedding we were in this month got a big kick out of that.
>> Charleston frequently asks “how is your day going?” and expects us to ask him in return. My mother-in-law taught him to reply with “más o menos” while giving the so-so sign with his hand.
>> Whenever we are in the car, about to start driving, he always shouts out, “Light this rocket!”
// 2017 LOVE CHALLENGE UPDATE //
This year of relentlessly studying and pursuing love has taught me so much about what it means to genuinely love others. One of the biggest takeaways has been the importance of creating space for people by being an available and nonjudgmental listener. This doesn’t come naturally to me, as I spend way too much time in my own head and not enough time actually being present with people. . . and when I am present, my tendency is to (internally) judge or “fix” others rather than just listen. God is working hard on me in this area, though, and I’m enjoying the changes. My new, softer approach to relationship has opened up opportunities for some deep conversations this month in which I have been honored to encourage and support a few individuals (some close to me, and some I had just met). An added benefit is that serving others in this way helps to take my mind off of my personal problems—truly a win/win!
// MONTHLY HIGHLIGHTS //
We went to a Movie in the Park, Charleston’s first! I wasn’t sure how he’d do since he has a hard time sitting through movies. Thankfully the movie of the evening happened to be his favorite (Moana) and he made it to the end. It was a lot of fun; I am excited to be in a new stage where we can do things like that as a family without having to get Charleston to bed by 7, or worrying about constant meltdowns.
We took an 11-day trip out to California, our first time back since last Christmas, and we had a fantastic time. Four of those days were driving days, and Charleston did amazingly well in the car: on the first day we were able to make it 17 hours (1000 miles) before stopping for the night, with zero meltdowns! (We have an iPad loaded up with games and movies for him, and the only time he gets to use it is on road trips, so the novelty kept him occupied and happy during the time in the car.)
We spent the first five days with my parents and brother at their house in Huntington Beach. It’s not the house I grew up in (they sold that house last year) but just being with family made me feel like I was “home.” We spent a lot of time hanging around the house, talking and playing ball with Charleston on the patio, walking to the playground (with Charleston being pulled in the wagon) and just soaking up the time together.
My parents recently bought a gorgeous boat and we were eager to see it. We spent some time just hanging out on the top deck, taking in the evening sunsets, and one day my dad took us on a late-morning cruise through the harbor.
Though we spent most of our time with my immediate family, we got to see some more of our California peeps as well. We had two lovely visits with my grandmother (who is 92 and is pretty smitten with her great grandson) and we spent a morning visiting with Luke’s grandparents, picking fruit from the trees in their yard and playing with their animals. My friend Cara came over for dinner one evening; even though she spent a week with us earlier in the summer and we chat on the phone every week, we had tons to talk about. And one night I had a girls’ night with Hilary and Deanna, my two closest friends from college. I love them both to pieces and it always feels so “right” when the three of us are reunited. (Unfortunately we forget to get a picture to commemorate the evening.)
Hilary, Deanna, and I ate diner at Lemonade LA where I had one of the best meals I’ve had all year—the roasted broccoli with ricotta and champagne vinaigrette, and the curried cauliflower with golden raisins and toasted almonds, were both to die for! And Speaking of food. . . every time we’re in California I make sure to eat at least once at each of my favorite spots: we had lunch at Wahoo’s and Corner Bakery, grabbed frozen yogurt from Golden Spoon, and picked up bowls from Flame Broiler more times than I care to admit.
We spent one evening wandering around Downtown Disney, where Charleston had fun exploring the Disney characters in the gift shop, and I fell in love with all the fun fall decor. While at Disney we had dinner at Naples Ristorante (our first successful sit-down dinner with Charleston in a very long time) and the balloon guy was a total hit.
My mom babysat one afternoon so that Luke and I could sneak away for a date lunch, which was a rare treat. We went to Ruby’s on Huntington Pier and it was the perfect day with the very best company.
On our last full day in HB, we took Charleston to the beach. He hadn’t been in over a year, so it felt like a brand new experience. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great, but Charleston was a good sport and loved walking through the sand and even playing in the waves—until one knocked him over, leaving him cold and wet and begging to leave. He was good as new after a change of clothes, and he had a blast pushing his stroller around Huntington’s Main Street.
We left my parents’ place on Friday morning and headed to Part Two of our California trip: wedding festivities in Temecula. The weekend began with a rehearsal at the wedding venue, a beautiful little winery called Abbot Manor. The wedding party was huge and both the rehearsal and following dinner at Round Table were quite festive.
The next morning I joined Amanda (the bride) and a few other bridesmaids for mani/pedis. Then my boys and I wandered around Old Town Temecula which is just about the cutest place I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately there were a lot of very loud motorcycles out and about, which was too much for our little guy to handle, so we just grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to our hotel for a nap.
That evening we went over to Lake Skinner where Luke’s parents and his aunt and her family were camping for the weekend. It was freezing, but we had a fun seeing their trailers and eating a barbecue dinner, and Charleston had a blast with his cousins Aubrey and Landon. Aubrey (who is actually Luke’s cousin) is six and was an adorable Mother Hen to her “Charles.” (Side note: I’m loving that nickname and kind of want to start using it myself!)
The next day, Sunday, was wedding day—a day we have been looking forward to for almost a year! I got up bright and early to join the bridal party at Amanda’s hotel to get our hair done, then we headed over to the wedding venue to do makeup, finish getting dressed, and take pictures. I’ve never been a bridesmaid before and had a lot of fun getting to know the other girls and getting to celebrate Amanda on her special day. I’m not at all a girly-girl so it surprised me how much I enjoyed this!
Luke was on Daddy Duty all morning so I hadn’t seen either him or Charleston until it was time for pictures; my heart completely melted when I saw my handsome man in his tux and our precious little Ring Bearer decked out in his cute little suit.
The wedding itself was absolutely perfect. All of the details were gorgeous, Amanda was stunning, Steven was one happy groom, and Charleston exceeded all of my expectations as the best-behaved, cutest little Ring Bearer a mama could ask for. He made it down the aisle and back with the appropriate signs in hand (you bet I cried when I saw him walking down that aisle!), stood (mostly quietly) with Luke during the ceremony (the sucker Luke had waiting for him helped), and made it until almost 10 in the evening with only one meltdown (I blame the loud speakers).
We didn’t get much time to mingle during the reception because we were hanging out on the lawn with Charleston and the other little munchkins, but we did get to chat briefly with a few of Luke’s family members and Amanda’s friends, and we got to enjoy the delicious food (Mongolian BBQ, our favorite!). It seemed like everyone had a wonderful time and Amanda and Steven positively glowed the entire night. I felt so honored to be a part of their wedding, and we are excited to welcome Steven as our newest brother!
Despite our late night at the wedding, we were up at six on Monday morning for the long drive back to Texas. Why is it that the drive home from a vacation always seems at least twice as long as the trip there? We made it safely back to Texas, and while we had an incredible time in California—and were reminded of how much we miss our home state—it’s good to be home.
I hope that you had a wonderful September. I’d love to hear one or two of your highlights!
As always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what we are into this month.